Upton Warren - 5 Apr 18

In fantastic Spring sunshine I paid a visit to The Christopher Cadbury Wetland Reserve at Upton Warren near Droitwich. It is managed by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust and therefore free to all members of any other county wildlife trust. Blessed with a fine cafe and plenty of hides it is a great day out

My reason for visiting was to see two species that are not easy to see in Shropshire – Avocet and Little Ringed Plover. The other notable feature is a very active – and noisy – Black-headed Gull colony

There are reed-beds and plenty of scrubby areas to attract the smaller birds and some well-placed feeders providing great viewing and photographic opportunities

Apart from the Avocets and Little Ringed Plovers the only other summer visitors that had arrived were Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps with a pair of Barn Swallows overhead

So here are some of my photos from the day

Now here’s a thing. A drake Gadwall with the white speculum and chestnut wing patch ...?

But wait: what’s that with him? a duck Mallard.

If we look closely there is the hint of a white neck ring and chestnut collar.

A fine study of the bird.

And in real close-up we see the bill is not all-black but has some orange marks. What is that all about? Frankly I don’t know but I suspect there is a small percentage of Mallard genes in this hybrid. Strange because one very strong Mallard gene seems to produce the curly tail in drake off-spring and this bird showed no hint of that.

The drake Tufted Ducks were having trouble with the slight breeze that sprang up.

Certainly a bad-hair day (though some TV personalities seem to want to emulate this as ‘fashion’).

This immature Cormorant did nothing apart from some desultory preening.

A Little Grebe in Summer plumage apparently looking for inspiration in the heavens.

One of a number of Buzzards in the area. Surprisingly the gulls took no notice of it. Whether that will change once they have eggs and chicks ...

Fresh out of the water to scavenge under the feeders we can see the ‘water-line’ of wet feathers. I still think they are stupid feet but I suppose they serve a useful purpose.

Avocets are so elegant so there will be many shots.

Here we see a bird feeding with the characteristic sweeping motion.

They even look elegant standing on one leg.

A bit of a dispute ...

A lot of a dispute as two pairs charge. Very delicate bills.

And a single on the warpath?

Probably not – it has diverted for some food.

This rather over-enlarged shot is included to show the ring on the bird’s right leg: part of the on-going monitoring programme.

And a pair flying off (note the gull behind is a first-summer bird that has not acquired the black on the head and still has brown in its wings).

Sadly all the Avocets soon flew off to the far side to deeper water and where there are no hides. This distant pair are practising for the synchronised drowning award.

The normally strident calls from the several pairs of Oystercatchers present were drowned by the noise of the gulls. This bird seemed to have a split personality and thought it was a Turnstone.

The Little Ringed Plovers were not at all cooperative staying well away from the hides. Even though it is, appropriately, wading through mud we can see the yellow legs that separate this species from the slightly larger (Great) Ringed Plover. The prominent yellow eye-ring is almost impossible to see here.

We do not see Black-headed Gulls in full breeding plumage much at the lake these days. By the time they start to return in mid-June the feathers will be faded and worn. So here is a noisy adult passing by.

And another ...

... and going the other way.

... coming in for splash-down.

See: they can walk on water!

This one dipping to pick up something from the surface of the water.

This one ‘on finals’ for a hard landing.

Now this a good trick – landing on a post.


Romance in the air for the Black-headed Gulls. Not usually as silent as this.

But then this pair seemed to be sulking.

Or is it a ploy?

Wings spread like this is partly territorial and partly a mating ritual.

More noise.

Like many birds (and humans!) the ‘feeding ritual’ is an important bonding activity.

Don’t look so solemn!

This pair look more mournful than solemn.

This pair are getting on better: the gulls nearby not interested on voyeurism apparently.

They certainly are noisy when they are enjoying themselves.

There are all manner of things one could say about this mating attempt: probably best left unsaid.

I never can resist Long-tailed Tits ...

A female Greenfinch. Look a lot more benign than the male with its dark mask.

A fine female Reed Bunting.

And again.

Spring at last? The ‘pussy willow’ looking great against the cobalt sky.

In reality catkins of a number of different willow trees (Salix sp.).

(Ed Wilson)

Venus Pool - 25 Mar 18

A few images from Venus Pool Today.

A drake Shelduck with the swollen base to the bill. A bird that often nests in old rabbit holes some distance from water.

He is rather splendid.

And a duck Shelduck – no swelling at the base of the bill and often a small white mark there – as here.

Drakes get the attention because of their bright colours. The ducks are attractive in a more subtle way. A Mallard here.

A less-than-perfect drake Shoveler with some rather soggy-looking crown feathers.

And a duck Shoveler: the large bill is often held in the water as it filters its food: then the boldly-patterned flank feathers are the best ID feature.
And the pair.

The splendid male Pheasant has even more finery now. It has developed almost ‘Mickey Mouse’ ears.

See what I mean.

A species that is hard to approach. From a public hide at Venus Pool we see this Little Grebe now in summer plumage. Note the white (sometimes yellow) mark at the base of the bill.

One having a preen.

Another view.

Many people are surprised that the wader, thought of as a coastal species, nests in the Midlands. There are usually a pair at Venus Pool. The eggs are usually predated by the local crows despite the typically loud noise made by Oystercatchers.

You rarely need to see this distinctive flight plumage to ID an Oystercatcher as they invariably call in flight.

There were plenty of Snipe present and a whole gallery follows.

We see 6 Snipe here. The collective noun for Snipe is a ‘wisp of Snipe’, though that probably applies better to a group in flight.

Two enter the synchronised eating competition.

Another view.

Another group of 6.

A trio.

A double act.

And a singleton – just about got away with enlarging this.

This was behaviour I had not seen before. There were two Moorhens in the area and one bird turned its back on the other, tilted up to expose its white undertail and partially spread its wings.

Here looking around – to see where the other bird is? This way ...

 ... and that.

Most of our Black-headed Gulls have left to nest on inland lakes, mainly in Europe. Some do breed locally and very noisy gull colonies are. They have bred at VP and here we see two calling and displaying.

Because they are common it is easy to dismiss male Chaffinches. They are many subtle colours when seen well.

(Ed Wilson)